According to a source, Ben Wallace, Defence Secretary, is making a rush to Washington to meet with his counterpart and White House officials to discuss “shared security concerns”, including Russia and Ukraine.
The secretive and last-minute nature the trip and comments by James Heappey, a second defense minister, suggested that sensitive and serious issues would likely be discussed.
This comes as NATO allies, the UK and the US closely monitor Russia’s war on Ukraine. There are concerns that President Vladimir Putin might escalate his attacks as his forces lose ground against western-armed Ukrainian troops.
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The UK defense source refused to give any details about Mr Wallace’s trip, except to say that “The defense secretary is in Washington DC for discussions on shared security concerns including Ukraine.”
“He will visit his counterpart at Pentagon and senior White House figures.”
The Pentagon press secretary for the US, Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, described the situation in a similar way: “He’s here today, to discuss Ukraine and the US and UK joint efforts towards supporting Ukraine as well as to, once again, reaffirm our transatlantic ties, and co-operation when it comes to Russia issues.”
However, Mr Heappey seemed to sense that the discussions were especially grave when he answered questions about the UK’s political crisis in an interview with Kay Burley at Breakfast on Sky News.
He said, “We at the Ministry of Defence do a great job of keeping our country safe in a time of extraordinary global insecurity.”
“My boss Ben Wallace is in Washington this morning and we have the kind of conversations that… it’s beyond belief that we are at a time when such conversations are necessary.”
Sky News asked the Pentagon press secretary about the “beyond belief” remarks. He replied: “Refer to the minister on this one.”
No guardian of honour
As a sign that the visit was planned in a hurry and was being kept low profile, Mr Wallace was not greeted at the Pentagon by a guard of honour.
On Tuesday, the defence secretary was due to appear before a London committee of MPs to discuss the UK and NATO. However, he had to cancel.
At a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels, last week, the possibility that Russia could use nuclear weapons against Ukraine was discussed. The US defense secretary Lloyd Austin and Mr Wallace attended the meeting and also held a bilateral discussion.
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Russia’s nuclear rhetoric has been described as ‘dangerous’ and “reckless”
Jens Stoltenberg (head of NATO) answered reporters last Thursday when he was asked if NATO would consider a nuke response if Russia used nuclear weapons in Ukraine. He stated that the fundamental purpose of NATO’s nuclear deterrent was to maintain peace, deter aggression and prevent coercion towards NATO allies.
“It is extremely unlikely that NATO would have to use nuclear weapons in these circumstances. Russia’s nuclear rhetoric seems dangerous and reckless.
“And they know that using nuclear weapons against Ukraine will have serious consequences. They also know that nuclear war is not possible and should not be fought.
Allies of NATO are participating in an annually held exercise to assess their capability to launch nuclear attacks. This year, Belgium hosted the training. It took place in the UK, North Sea, and Belgium.
Russia will also be conducting annual nuclear drills. The US claims that the Russians have not notified them about their nuclear drills. This is information they would expect to receive.